It became obvious during the recent evidentiary hearing that far more than murky "legal technicalities" were at play.

The fuss wasn't just about jurors' gabbing about the viability of certain witnesses and evidence before officially starting deliberations, which some did even though it is forbidden by the rules.

Instead, the jurors' disturbing testimony went to the heart of what is supposed to be sacred about our criminal-justice system. That includes how they are supposed to conduct business — following a judge's instructions, confusing or not.

Mike Terribile was one of Martinson's two court-appointed defense lawyers.
Mike Terribile was one of Martinson's two court-appointed defense lawyers.

This is what Judge Duncan told the jury, verbally and on paper before deliberations, about the burden of proof:

"The law does not require a defendant to prove innocence. Every defendant is presumed by law to be innocent."

But several jurors said they were swayed by forewoman Kathy's inaccurate insistence that Martinson had to prove he hadn't committed the crimes against his son.

Kathy's own testimony confirmed her point of view, the exact opposite of what Judge Duncan had instructed.

"I said to the jury that it was the defense's job to give us other things to think about," she testified on January 25.

"I can't remember the exact verbiage. But the gist of it was that the defense had to give us reasons to believe that it didn't happen this way, or whatever . . . had to show that the defendant didn't do it, to give us a reason why he wouldn't do it."

Many jurors took Kathy's words to heart, such as juror James, whose testimony last month revealed his apparent confusion.

"The way I understood [your instructions]," he told Judge Duncan, "[is] if the child abuse was committed and the child died — whether it was intentionally or unintentionally — it still was felony murder."

But that's not what the judge said and not what Arizona law says.

Clearly, Jeff Martinson had to have "intended" to hurt his son for it to get to the level of "felony murder."

Like several other jurors, James said the state hadn't proved its murder case against Martinson. But, remarkably, he voted guilty anyway.

James was none too happy about anything that happened at trial.

"In my opinion, the [Phoenix police] investigation sucked, the autopsy sucked, the prosecution was lackluster and ill-prepared," he blurted out at the end of his testimony in response to a follow-up question from prosecutor Grimsman.

"So the evidence is what I looked at. That's what I made my decision from — personally. I had to reasonably make a decision like I make any other decision in my life, okay? And that's what I did."

Grimsman had no further questions.

It was a case that had lingered in the criminal-justice system for seven years before going to trial, two years longer than Josh Eberle-Martinson had lived.

Arizona vs. Martinson had become infamous at the Maricopa County courthouse because of its interminable delays caused by nasty county politics, intransigent attorneys on both sides, and incessant financial concerns.

A dozen defense attorneys represented Martinson over time, with all but veteran trial lawyers Mike Terribile and Treasure Van Dreumel falling by the wayside for one reason or another.

(The Martinson case already has cost county taxpayers more than $2 million in defense attorney fees alone — almost $1 million each to Terribile and Van Dreumel. A future story will examine that troubling aspect.)

From the start, the case teemed with complex legal issues that ran alongside the heartbreaking narrative of an innocent boy's life abruptly ended.

Perhaps most extraordinary is that if juror Laura hadn't summoned the courage to write that bombshell note to Sally Duncan on November 17, the judge never may have learned about the monumental dysfunction that overtook the deliberations.

Laura wrote of the forewoman, Kathy, "It is my understanding that you [cannot] use scare tactics and threaten, intimidate, or disregard concerns and opinions from other jurors. The manner in which this verdict was reached was based on intimidation and disregard for the legal process."

Laura later testified she'd finally realized during the "death eligibility" phase after the guilty verdict that Kathy had misled her and other jurors about the jury instructions.

It wasn't that Laura, an employee of the U.S. Marshals Service, considered Jeff Martinson innocent. She was convinced that he was guilty of something, but not necessarily of the most serious form of child abuse.

Even so, Laura was one of the two jurors who voted to send Jeff Martinson to death row, but not, she later testified, because she believed he belonged there.

Instead — and this shows how twisted it was inside that jury room — Laura said most of the others wanted life, not death. She said she hoped that hanging the jury would result in a retrial on Martinson's guilt or innocence (not just the sentencing) and maybe make things right.

Another juror, Carlos, also wrote a note to Judge Duncan on that same date, November 17. Though he hadn't been part of the deliberations, Carlos said some jurors contacted him after rendering their guilty verdicts.

"It was told to me by several jurors that the jury foreman intimidated and coerced at least two people into changing their votes when they wanted to consider a lesser charge," he wrote.

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